Friday 7 December 2012

34: Continent and Processing, Coast and Peaks

Welcome to edition 34 of the Railwaymedia Blog.
The last two weeks have turned out to be quite productive, both from the point of view of catching up with my reprocessing of older pictures, but also because I've managed to get out on a few occasions with my camera; nowhere especially exciting, but I have visited one or two spots that for me are interesting from the perspective of documenting the day to day railway.
Firstly, an update on the reprocessing. Having begun around 2 years ago with the adding, and reprocessing, of pictures starting from my first digital images taken on point and shoot cameras in 2003, I have now progressed through to the summer of 2007. I took the decision to standardise on web images of 1200 pixels wide in late 2009, so I have now only around 2 years worth of images to do. I actually feel like there may be light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. Of course once that is done, I'm going to have to go back through them all and do once again those that I'm not happy with my standard of reprocessing on, but I'm trying not to think about that for now!
One result of getting half way through 2007 is that I have now done my pictures from my foreign trip taken that year in June. This was my second foray abroad (not including Ireland) and involved two days in Holland followed by three days based in Hamburg. The Netherlands I would like to visit again: I think there has been a few changes there with less use of locos on passenger services and the withdrawal of some of the older classes of EMUs, however the country is one of the busiest in Europe for freight and most passenger lines also see very frequent services. For a suggetsion of a location to visit, here is a picture from Helmond 't Hout: if you are interested in seeing what goes through this location, try watching the excellent Railcam situated there.
The other bit of this trip was a visit to the Island of Sylt in Germany. About 3 hours on the train north of Hamburg and only a couple of kilometers from Denmark, the only way on and off the Island is by train so a frequent service of 'Auto-Zugs' (Car Trains) operates across the Hindenburgdamm. The day spent here was probably one of my top 10 favourite days ever spent photographing. I have set up a featured gallery showing the photographs from the island, which can be viewed HERE.
Anyway, having seemingly spent half this blog talking about pictures from over 5 years ago, I suppose I had better move onto those I have taken slightly more recently...
A meet up between a few friends from university had been organised for last Saturday in Nottingham. As with the previous such meeting in Sheffield, I worked out that a 4 days in 8 Coast and Peaks Rover would cost not much more than a ticket to Nottingham on the day, so I decided to make the most of it. As I mentioned in the last blog, I aimed to try and get a few more pictures of the Rail Head Treatment trains before they finished for the year, so to that end a Thursday jaunt to North Wales had been planned. With Wednesday also looking nice weather-wise I went over to Staffordshire to get a couple of pictures on the old North Staffordshire line from Stoke to Derby.
This isn't a line I have photographed much; generally it only has an hourly service worked by East Midlands Trains' class 153s. Seeing a good location at Longton I got off to get a shot of the RHTT heading to Crewe, though a miscalcualtion on my part meant it had run 4 hours earlier: it only runs on Thursdays at the later time. Working nights tends to make you forget what day it is!
I nipped up to Uttoxeter (picture at the top of the blog) and then decided to head back via Stoke to Rugeley. The station there on the Trent Valley line is quite a popular spot for photographers/spotters, though I more or less had the station to myself. As is Sods law, I was right on the wrong side of the edge of the clouds so for most of the 2 hours I spent there the procession of Pendolinos (and a couple of freight trains) passed in dullness. Changing trains at Stafford and I timed it well for a returning RHTT from Crewe to Wembley, so at least I sort of achieved what I had set out to do. Even better was 10 minutes at Crewe coincided with 3 of Network Rail's former class 37s enroute from the Electric Depot to Bescot. Though this was a hollow victory as you'll see in a bit...
So the next day (definately Thursday this time) and the plan was to go to the North Wales Coast to see the class 97 hauled RHTT that runs along there (you may be able to guess what's coming) and also the Arriva Trains Wales class 67/DVT driver training run. Well, the flooding in St Asaph and other parts of North Wales at the beginning of the week had, fairly understandably, led to the driver training runs being cancelled as the set had been unable to come up from Cardiff on the Monday. It also turned out that the previous day was the last day the North Wales RHTT ran, hence the loco move seen the previous evening. You win some, you lose some.
As I was enroute towards Flint when I found this information out, I decided to make the best of a bad job and see if I could get some pictures on the 'Borderlands' line that runs between Bidston and Wrexham, another route I have previously never covered with my camera. There are two Arriva class 150s allocated to this line, and they normally pass just south of Shotton. I first went to see if a shot was possible of them crossing the bridge at Hawarden, 5 minutes walk from Shotton station. There is a footpath across this bridge, but this being on the eastern side of the structure spoils the morning shot somewhat. The little used station at the other end is only served about 3 times a day.
I had a trip up to Wrexham and enroute spotted a nice looking location a short walk from Cefn-y-Bedd station, so on the way back I spent an hour here in order to phtograph the next southbound unit. Unfortunately trees preclude a shot of trains crossing the small viaduct between here and the station. I returned to Shotton and had a bite to eat in the Wetherspoons conveniently next to the high-level station whilst waiting for the setting sun to move round enough for a shot of Hawarden bridge from the western side. It was only after the train had passed that I spotted the opportunity for a panorama shot. The picture of the Sprinter can be seen below, a link to the panorama is HERE.
Saturday, as previously mentioned, was a day for drinking in Nottingham. It is over 6 years since we had last met up there, and therefore that long since I had photographed the tramway, as subsequent visits have all been to solely visit the excellent Nottingham Beer Festival held in the castle. I got there slightly early so took a trip on the tram up to Hucknell and back on the train. Maybe next time I visit the tramway there the planned extensions to the network will be up and running.
The Coast and Peaks Rover covering from Derby and Sheffield to as far as Holyhead is excellent value, in fact when at school we used to regularly buy one during the holidays to ride the class 31 hauled Liverpool-Cleethorpes trains to Sheffield in order to catch a bus (24 to Brinsworth) to Tinsley depot. I remember the horror when we found the bus fare had risen from 2p to 5p!!!
Anyway, I digress... I hadn't really planned on using the 4th day of my ticket, but with Wednesday promising a nice, though bitterly cold day, I sort of retraced my childhood steps by getting a class 158 from Warrington to Sheffield with the aim of taking a few tram pictures, and also maybe having a couple of hours in the Hope Valley on the way back. 30 minutes at the tram junction near the station got a few shots, though I didn't see the nice Sheffield Corporation liveried one. I first noticed a 'Genting Club' in Blackpool a few months back; it's obvious what they are but I'm puzzled why the name has suddenly sprung up everywhere. I bet that if this was an European tram advertising such a club then there would be pictures of women on the side like this Zagreb one!
Visits to the Hope Valley for photography have always in the past been done by car, there is a two hourly stopping service, but some locations are a fair walk from stations and of course at this time of year, the low sun limits where you can go. I took a chance and alighted at Hathersage on the way back, having spotted a foot crossing about 1/2 mile east of the station, however the station itself was good enough, with a zoom lens to get past the shadows, for trains heading east.
I hadn't really much idea if anything of interest was due; I found there was a westbound freight on its way but both of the two booked eastbound services were showing as overdue departing Tunstead and Earles Sidings. About an hour after arriving at Hathersage however I could hear a noise in the distance coming up the valley. To be honest it was that loud I thought it must be some lorry on the nearby road, but after about 2 minutes 70013 appeared round the corner on a cement service to Essex. These are really impressive locos in my opinion, and certainly they sound noisy. This one wasn't 'clagging' so much, but was creating a pretty good heat-haze in the cold air.
On the news front, of course most of you will probably know that Virgin are keeping the West Coast Franchise for another 2 years. Not that this was a suprise given the government had backed themselves into a corner and left that the only option. Cue legal action this time from First Group I suspect. It looks like Virgin's class 57s (or at least the ones not yet with Network Rail or DRS) are going to be going to DRS permanently. This probably makes sense as they always seem to be on the look out for ETS fitted locos, but also being based at Carlisle they are conveniently located on the route to be hired should Virgin still have the need for one to drag a class 390.

57302 and 57309, fairly fresh in DRS colours and named 'Pride of Crewe' and 'Chad Varrah' were at Preston last night (Thursday) waiting to be taken up to Carlisle Friday morning by a Virgin driver who was then bringing a couple more back down to Crewe, presumably for repainting. 57307 'Lady Penelope' was at the DRS depot the other week. Having taken over 150 pictures of Virgin class 57/3 in the last 10 years, it'll be nice to get some shots of them in different colours!

Well, I think that's enough for this edition, writing it is keeping me from cracking on with 2007's pictures! I hope to squeeze out another edition before Christmas, fingers crossed for a bit of snow and sun for a spot of winter photography. Thanks for reading. With talk of 'Genting Clubs', here's a picture showing the interesting combination of services offered in a building nearby to the excellent Fox and Crown pub in Old Basford, Nottingham (highly recommended not only for its beers from the neighbouring Alcazar brewery, but also for its Thai Food). Bye for now!

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